SURPRISE, Ariz. — On another sun-drenched day here, Rangers manager Jeff Banister is patiently explaining why he sees a role for former Astros prospect Delino DeSheilds on the big-league roster. It’s a topic that won’t go away, in part because of the local beat writers’ obsession with finalizing the 25-man roster.
"I personally don’t look at Delino as a Rule 5 (draft) guy," Banister said. "This is a guy that has a skill set that can help you win ballgames. He has a speed element. He’s shown the bunt. He’s shown some barrel. And he has shown us that he’s better than adequate in the outfield."
There will come a time when Banister tires of these daily briefings, but that day seems pretty far down the road. This a man who waited years for this opportunity, so he’ll likely embrace all aspects of his new gig.
It felt strange to spend six days at Rangers spring training with no Ron Washington. I think players are still adjusting to that absence as well. But in Banister, the Rangers have a manager who is uniquely prepared for adversity. This man somehow hung onto a job in the dreadful Pirates organization for the past two decades. I know something of this because of my longtime devotion to that team which can be explained in three words: We. Are. Family.
In conversations with several players the past few days, they agreed that Banister brought a different type of energy to the clubhouse. Starting pitcher Derek Holland told me Bannister carries himself like a man with a military background. He certainly has that outward appearance. But Bannister doesn’t sound that rigid when he talks about his players. When a reporter asked whether DeShields can be a "piece" on this team, Banister politely explained that he preferred the word "player." Washington was fiercely loyal to his players and I think Banister will be the same way.
Banister has several buzzwords he uses to drive home points. The word "conviction" comes up a lot. So far, players are buying into his message. But we can’t truly evaluate him until the season begins.
I’m anxious to look for why GM Jon Daniels preferred Banister to Tim Bogar. Banister will have to integrate young players while hoping veteran players such as Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo have huge bounce-back seasons.
The good news is that he’s relentless in his optimism. Banister somewhat naively talked about Yu Darvish simply being "one of 25" players on the roster. That may be true in a literal sense, but it’s disingenous otherwise.
It’s fine to be optimistic, as long as it’s rooted in reality. The players know losing Darvish was a huge setback and that’s all right to acknowledge.
Now, let’s get back to this fascinating DeShields subplot…